Everything You should know about Allergy Testing
Whatever causes an allergic reaction is an allergen. This includes nuts, wheat, dander (from pets), mould, etc. And in testing for allergy, allergens are introduced into the skin to see if there would be reactions like a rash or bump. A skin prick test checks for allergic reactions. Even blood tests identify IgE antibodies. From the result of this test, ways to put allergies under control are determined.
What is testing for allergy?
A test that identifies if your immune system overreacts to some things. Allergies are triggered by allergens (certain substances). Having an allergic reaction implies you’ve got an allergy.
Allergens can come from the environment like mould, dander (from pets) and pollen. Allergens could be certain foods like soy, milk or peanuts. Again, allergens may be in the form of bee stings. People may be allergic to one or more of these substances.
Why should I get an allergy test?
Your doctor will perform this test on you when there are allergic symptoms causing concerns. Asthmatic persons also undergo testing for allergy. Here, the doctor tests for allergens that make asthma symptoms worse or cause an outbreak of asthma.
Should you have experienced a serious allergic reaction – what is known as anaphylaxis, you’re suitable for this test. Anaphylaxis is so serious that it can trigger breathing problems, sudden lowering of blood pressure, swelling or hives that bring on anaphylactic shock.
By studying your medical history and testing for allergy, the doctor can detect the cause of a chronic reaction. Where you’ve experienced or are prone to having an anaphylactic reaction, you need to treat symptoms using an epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector (EpiPen).
What are the symptoms of allergy?
Different allergens cause different symptoms. If your overreact to environmental allergens like pet dander, pollen or dust, you may experience a condition called hay fever (allergic rhinitis) which is characterised by the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath, severe cough or wheezing
- Sore throat
- Itchy eyes that wells up with water
If you’re allergic to certain foods, symptoms usually show up 30 minutes after eating the allergenic food. It may happen 2 hours after eating.
Symptoms of food allergies are:
- Skin problems like hives, swollen tongues, lips or face, itchiness of the body
- Problems with respiration like wheezing, breathlessness, coughing and chest tightness
- Problems with the gastrointestinal like abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting
- Problems with the cardiovascular system like dizziness, pale skin, and lightheadedness
Should metals, latex and fragrances trigger your allergy, you may experience contact dermatitis where your skin is affected and show symptoms like swelling and hives, skin rash, and blisters. For reactions like this, your skin doctor will do a patch test.
What’s the work of an allergy test?
Here, your body is tested for its reaction to certain allergic substances. Allergic persons have an immune system that overreacts to the allergen. This reaction releases E(IgE) – antibodies that produce chemicals that are responsible for the body’s reaction to the allergen.
What test types are done for allergic reactions?
By considering your specific symptoms and the possible allergens, the doctor will recommend one of the different ways to test for allergies.
Tests for allergies include:
- Skin prick (scratch) test. Here, about 10 to 50 allergens are attached to a thin needle and used to prick your skin (back or forearm). Alternatively, the doctor may rub in potential allergens in liquid form into your skin. Usually, the skin may turn red under 15 minutes after this procedure. Your body may react by presenting wheals (round bumps) or rash. This test is used to detect allergies caused by food, air particles, and penicillin.
- Intradermal skin test. An inconclusive or negative skin prick test result may require you to get this test. The allergic substances are placed on your epidermis (outer skin). Medication allergies, insect sting allergies and airborne allergies are diagnosed with this test.
- Patch test. The cause of contact dermatitis is identified by this test. Droplets of the allergen are placed on your arm and covered with a bandage. Alternatively, the allergen may be dropped on the bandage and wound around your arm. You will carry this patch or bandage for 2 to 3 days, after which it will be removed, and the doctor will detect any reaction.
- Blood (IgE) test. This one requires a sample of your blood. The doctor will draw your blood and send it to the lab, where it will be mixed with allergens. This test checks for how manyIgE antibodies are in your blood. So many false-positive results are obtained from the blood test.
- Challenge tests. Only a doctor can personally administer and supervise this type of allergy test. Here, a small quantity of allergen is ingested by those having a potential drug or food allergies. A specialist doctor for allergies called an allergist usually carries out this test. The doctor must monitor this test. Should there be any occurrence of anaphylaxis, immediately, you’ll be injected with epinephrine to render the reaction inactive.
What preparations should I make for allergy testing?
If you are going for an allergy test, you will be asked to discontinue the use of allergy medications such as antihistamines 3 days to a week of the test. Why? The outcome of the test can be impacted by this medication in that they make your immune system not react to the allergen. Don’t stop taking your medication for asthma.
What should be my expectation for an allergy test?
The doctor performs this test to observe your body’s response to allergens. A reaction will be sighted at the area where the test was done for those who are allergic. It is uncommon for allergic people to develop nasal congestion, watery eyes and other minor allergy symptoms. Many symptoms disappear in an hour or two post-testing, but the redness or wheals may still be visible for longer periods.
Do allergy tests pose a risk?
The main risk of an allergy test is developing anaphylactic shock though it is uncommon. But should it happen, your doctor has ready at hand an epinephrine injection. Emergency care should you develop a chronic infection during an allergy test is also available emergency care.
How effective is an at-home allergy test?
Test kits for allergies purchased over-the-counter or online are not trustworthy. Certain types don’t even target the appropriate antibodies for the test. There is also a possibility of getting a false-positive result. When that happens, you will go about denying yourself certain foods and substances you shouldn’t truly avoid.
As for the cost of allergy tests, know that there may be no full health insurance cover. However, discuss with your health insurance provider about your treatment policies. Generally, a health professional should give you an allergy test – it is best. They will interpret the result from the test and work with you to treat the condition.
When will the result from my allergy test be ready?
Most allergy test results are available right after the test has been completed. Results from a patch test may be ready after some days. It may take one week or more to get results from a blood test.
How to interpret results from an allergy test
- Negative result. It means you don’t have an allergic reaction to the allergen. Getting a false-negative result (the test outcome says you’re not allergic, but you really are) is rare.
- Positive result. It implies you do have an allergic reaction to the allergen for which you were tested. Bear in mind that a test may accurately indicate the presence of an allergy, but you may not actually respond to the substance. You can get a false-positive test result, particularly when undergoing a blood (IgE) test. A false-positive result means the test outcome says you are allergic, but you really are not.
What should I do if I am diagnosed to be allergic?
Following your allergy, the doctor may advise you to adopt one or more of the following measures:
- Bring your allergen exposure to a low. Stay away from triggers that worsen your allergies, like some foods or latex.
- Use allergy medication everyday. With antihistamines, conditions like allergic rhinitis and other symptoms can be stalled or lowered.
- Take allergy shots. Immunotherapy of this sort can make the immune system less responsive to allergenic substances such as dander from pets. For optimum results, take allergy shots for 3 to 5 years.
- Consider having a medical alert card. To create awareness about any chronic allergy you have, consider getting medical alert jewellery or a card. This piece informs those around you that you may go into anaphylactic shock if exposed to specific allergens.
- Always have an epinephrine injection (EpiPen). Should you be susceptible to an anaphylactic allergic reaction, carry this medicine with you all the time.
There are many effects of allergy. It can cause worrisome congestions and fatal anaphylactic shock. Substances that trigger allergies (allergens) can be identified with allergy tests. And there are many tests for allergies. Your doctor will recommend which is most suitable for you following your symptoms and what causes your allergy. Do you have any allergies and would like to have allergy testing & treatment in UK? Simply get in touch with our team of friendly experts; let’s see how we can help you.
Alice is the man behind this health blog. She is a physician and the founder of this must-read blog. Believe it or not, she started her journey from being an ordinary physician to building this blog from scratch. She shares reliable health and nutrition advice in his blog to help you follow a healthy lifestyle. Follow her on his (socials).
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